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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND FORTY-TWO
Friday night — 7:26 p.m.
Jill and Ivy were clearing the dishes from the dinner table when Delphie got up and went to the window. She moved back the blinds to look out. Since Valerie was gone, the paparazzi had given up their posts around the house. The street was quiet. She watched for a moment, and shook her head. She picked up the last bowl and went to the kitchen.
“What is it?” Sam asked.
“Just a feeling,” Delphie said.
“What feeling?” Jacob asked from the sink. He was rinsing dishes while Sandy loaded the dishwasher. Rachel was tucked into a sling on Aden’s back.
“Feeling like someone is trying to get in here,” Delphie said.
Her eyes flicked to Ivy.
“Why would someone want to get in here?” Honey asked.
With her baby, Maggie, resting in her lap, Honey was making lunches at the kitchen table. Jill’s twins were asleep in their car seats on the table, and Katy was spinning in circle next to the table.
“To kill us,” Ivy said.
“Oh that,” Honey said. “Same shit different day.”
“I guess,” Delphie said. She looked at Jacob. “Did you ever…?”
She gestured toward the door to the coal tunnels.
“I did,” Jacob said without turning around.
They heard a man’s startled scream from the other side of the door, and the sound of a handgun firing repeatedly.
“Armored door?” Honey asked.
“Electrified,” Jacob said. “Had to be done. Why don’t we all retire downstairs until this blows over?”
“I have to call Sissy and Noelle!” Sandy asked. “I can’t call from down there.”
“There’s a computer down there,” Jacob said. “You can call on that.”
“What about Charlie?” Sandy asked. “If they’re here …”
“I saw Charlie this afternoon,” Honey said. “They’ve moved to the basement. No one can get in or out of there. He’s fine.”
Jill picked up Bladen and Delphie grabbed Tanner.
“Come on, Sandy,” Aden said. “Sissy will understand.”
Aden picked up Katy, and Sandy took Ivy’s hand. They ran out of the kitchen. Jacob picked up Maggie and knelt down so that Honey could hold on around his neck. He whistled for the dogs. Sarah and Scooter barreled off the couches in the main living room and Buster flew down the stairs from Sandy and Aden’s apartment. The dogs followed the people down the basement stairs. When they were all downstairs, Jacob pressed a button. A metal door rolled down over the entrance to the stairwell.
“Movie?” Sam asked. “Jake just finished the entertainment room.”
“Sounds good,” Delphie said.
She gave the stairwell one last worried glance and followed the others to the entertainment room.
Friday night —9:30 p.m.
New York City, New York
Sissy felt like she was under a red bubble. When she opened her eyes, she saw only red. She coughed and sprayed red wetness everywhere. It looked a little like Santa farts, and she giggled which made her cough again. She tried to move but felt someone holding her down.
“Stay there, Sis.” MJ’s face appeared over her head. “I know it hurts like hell. You have to be brave. I don’t have my kit. The paramedics are almost here.”
He disappeared. She moved her hand to reach out to him. Ivan grabbed her hand. She couldn’t see him because somehow her eyes had magically glued shut. But she knew it was him.
Her mind slipped to the first time he’d held her hand. She was four and he was old. They were working on toughing up her feet by having her walk barefoot on the warm summer concrete. The rough surface felt itchy on her soft feet. She’d wobbled and he’d grabbed her hand to keep her from falling.
Her mind jumped to the first time she’d been in the hospital for her eating disorder. She’d given all of her money to Charlie that month and Mom was on strike. There wasn’t food in the house so Sissy didn’t eat. She wound up in the Emergency Room. Ivan had come in late one night when she was still in Intensive Care. He’d held tight to her hand and spoken in Russian. She wasn’t sure what he’d said, but he talked for a long time. The nurse found him there and chased him out. That was right before her first stint in eating disorder rehab which brought the end of her dancing lessons with Ivan.
The hospital memory was pushed out of her mind by a recent memory of them dancing together. He’d been preparing her recent interviews with ballet companies. He’d stood at the side of the Castle ballroom and held his hand out to her. She had lightly taken it as he’d instructed. They held hands as they did prancing ballet walks. It wasn’t the tight hand holding of the other times. It was light and mostly for show. She smiled.
They had danced beautifully. It was one of the best moments of her life.
“I’m losing her,” MJ yelled to someone who was running down the sidewalk.
“Hang on, Sissy,” Ivan said. “You remember — ballerina’s never quit.”
“Ivan?” Sissy asked.
She felt herself flying through the air. In her mind, she was dancing with Ivan. He had lifted her above his head and she was flying. She beamed at rarified air of being held over Ivan’s head.
“Any of you family?” the paramedic asked.
“I am her…,” Ivan paused. MJ looked at him. “… husband.”
MJ nodded in agreement.
“Get in,” the paramedic said.
Ivan hopped into the ambulance. He sat down on the bench and grabbed on tight to Sissy’s hand. No matter what the screaming machines said about her, he was sure Sissy had squeezed his hand back.
Friday night —7:30 p.m.
Anschutz Medical Center, Aurora, Colorado
A bullet careened toward Tanesha. Fin flicked his finger and the bullet stopped in its tracks. The man fired again and again at rapid speed until his clip was empty. The bullets made a solid “clink” when they fell against each other on the carpet.
The man’s eyes went wide.
“Have you ever meet a full-blooded fairy?” Fin asked.
Tanesha wasn’t sure what happened next. One minute, that horrible man was firing a handgun at her. The next moment, the man was unconscious and hanging over the top of the door to the study room. People were running from all directions.
“What happened?” a young man asked from the doorway.
“This gentleman tried to shoot us,” Fin said. He gave a vague smile. “His weapon seemed to have backfired. It blew him …”
Fin gestured to the door. Tanesha looked down. The pile of bullets on the carpet were gone. The man hanging over the door was starting to seep blood. Campus police arrived followed by the paramedics. The Campus police asked them hard questions, which Tanesha couldn’t answer. The Aurora police arrived and took over. They went through another round of questioning, but Tanesha still didn’t know what was happening. Fin must have used magic on the police because they were finally able to go home.
“What was that?” Fin asked.
“I don’t know,” Tanesha said.
Fin nodded. He looked off into the distance.
“Your mother’s been taken,” Fin said. “Your friends are in the same boat.”
He smiled, took a breath, and shrugged.
“Where shall we go first?” Fin asked.
“Abi and her team are with Mom?” Tanesha asked.
“And your father.” Fin nodded.
“Jill and Sandy?” Tanesha asked.
“Protected,” Fin said.
“Who is in the worse condition?” Tanesha asked.
“It’s a toss-up between Sissy …” Fin said.
“Sissy?” Tanesha gasped.
” … and Heather,” Fin said.
“Heather,” Tanesha whispered.
Tears formed in her eyes , and Fin put his hand on her arm. She shook her head and scowled.
“Where can I be the most effective?” Tanesha said.
“Heather is fighting for her life,” Fin said. “Her children are with her.”
His voice was oddly vague. Tanesha looked at him. Before she could ask, they were standing on the maternity ward hallway at Saint Joseph Hospital.
“I’ll stay with you,” Fin said.
“Thanks,” Tanesha said.
“We can’t intervene until …” Fin said.
“BAM!” a handgun went off.
“Our cue,” Fin said.
He grabbed Tanesha’s arm. They were standing next to the shooter.
“They can’t see us,” Fin said.
“Hey!” an orderly threw himself at the shooter.
“Protect the children,” Fin said to Tanesha.
With Fin orchestrating, the orderly tackled the shooter. The orderly hit the shooter with a solid thud. Fin stepped out of the way. Tanesha stared at Heather. Heather had a bullet hole in her neck. Blood flowed easily from the wound and pooled on her ample bosom, which was leaking breast milk. Tanesha bent down to put pressure on the wound.
“Stop!” Fin said.
“But…” Tanesha said.
“She’s an Olympian!” Fin said.
“She’s my best friend!”
“Your immortal best friend!” Fin said.
Tanesha held back a sob and stepped over Heather. She pulled the chair back and knelt down. Tink’s face was covered in tears and she was shivering with fear. As she’d learned from Abi, Tanesha created a protective force field around Tink and the babies.
The shooter hit the orderly and they began to brawl over the weapon. Fin made the handgun fly up into the air. It landed in a bin of dirty laundry.
“You’ve got them?” Fin asked.
“Yes,” Tanesha said.
The next thing Tanesha knew, she was standing in someone’s warm basement. Tanesha put her arm around Tink to hold her up. The girl’s eyes were squeezed tightly closed. She was clutching Heather’s new baby and Mack was clinging to Fin.
“Maresol?” Fin asked.
A door on the right flew open and Maresol stood in the doorway holding a shotgun.
“You’re late,” Maresol said. She turned and gave the shotgun to Dale, who was standing behind her. She rushed forward and put her arms around Tink. The girl melted into Maresol’s arms.
“Delphie told you?” Fin asked.
“She told me to expect you a half hour ago,” Maresol said.
“Maresol?” Tink whispered.
“It’s me, dear,” Maresol said. “You are safe.”
Tink began to sob. Dale took Mack from Fin. Maresol took the newborn from Tink and still managed to guide the girl into the room.
“We have to go,” Fin said.
“Get Tanesha to wash her hands,” Maresol said. “Seth’s big bathroom is right there.”
Maresol pointed to a door across the hallway. Heather’s new infant began to scream. Maresol nodded and closed the door to the room.
“My hands?” Tanesha looked down to see Heather’s blood all over her hands. “Why…?”
“Fast,” Fin said.
With a wave of his hand, Tanesha moved at double time. She rushed into the bathroom and washed her hands. When she returned, Fin was wearing his regal court wardrobe. He nodded to her. She took a step and almost tripped on the floor length velvet dress. She glanced at the full length mirror. She was wearing a diamond and sapphire tiara in the style of Fin’s ring. Her ears dangled matching earrings, and there was a matching necklace around her neck. Her dress was a deep burgundy to match his ornate burgundy court wear.
“What…?” Tanesha started.
“We’re going to Olympia,” Fin said.
Tanesha turned to look at him. He gave her a quick nod and touched her arm. In a breath, they were standing in an ornate golden hall in the clouds.
“We fight for your best friend’s life,” Fin said with a nod.
“Prince Finegal and Princess Tanesha of the Queen Fand’s Court,” the court herald called.
Fin took her arm and they started into the court.
Friday night —7:45 p.m.
“Here you go,” Jacob set a laptop into Sandy’s lap. “You can talk here, and we’ll wait.”
“I don’t want to get in the way,” Sandy said.
“We want to talk to Noelle too,” Delphie said with a soft smile.
Working in the little bar kitchen at the back of the room, Honey turned on the air-pop popcorn maker just as the electric hot water pot boiled. Jill closed the door to the microwave.
“It’s kind of noisy,” Sandy said. “Why don’t I get a hold of her and then I’ll bring it back?”
“The room next door is Valerie’s meditation room,” Jacob said. “It’s quiet.”
“That works,” Delphie said.
Sandy nodded. Aden picked up the lap top and helped her to get settled in the room next door. Sandy left the door open so she didn’t feel so isolated. She turned on the computer. While the programs were starting, she checked the Denver Post site.
“Oh my God,” Sandy said. Rachel made a surprised sound.
She picked up Rachel and jogged into the entertainment room.
“The Denver Police have launched an amber alert,” Sandy said. “For Heather’s new baby.”
Everyone turned to look at her.
“After a shooting,” Sandy said. “A shooting…”
Her legs felt weak and she weaved. Aden got to her before she fell. He took Rachel from her. Jacob jogged into the meditation room to get the laptop.
“A young woman has been shot and her baby stolen by mysterious assailants,” Jacob read the newspaper. “Why do you think this is Heather?”
“That’s a picture of the outside of her room,” Sandy said. “You can see the banner Katy and Paddie made for her.”
“We were just there… Just there…” Jill said.
“It says that a mystery assailant shot the young mother,” Jacob said. “They believe the woman attempted to hide at the nurse’s station. They have a surveillance photo of the person they think took the baby.”
He and Jill leaned into to the photo.
“Who is that?” Jacob asked. “Looks familiar but …”
He turned the computer to the room. Person after person shook their head.
“It’s Auntie Tanesha.” Katy pointed to the picture.
“What?” Jill asked. She leaned in to take a closer look. “Oh my God, it is.”
“The young woman was taken into emergency surgery,” Jacob continued to read. “We have no further information at this time.”
“She’s immortal, right?” Sam asked.
All of the adults nodded, but Sandy shook her head.
“What is it?” Aden asked.
“Perses granted her one human lifetime,” Sandy sniffed back her tears. “This was it. We’ll never see her again.”
“Oh no,” Jill shook her head.
“Mom?” Noelle’s voice came from the laptop. “Mom? Are you there? Mom! Please be there!”
Jacob clicked over to see Noelle’s face on the video chat. Noelle’s face was wet with tears and her nose red. She had flicks of red splashed across her face and a dried patch of red in her hair. She looked desperate.
“She’s right here, Noelle,” Jacob said. “Your dad’s here too.”
Sandy wiped her face with the hem of her shirt. She looked at Aden and he wiped a smudge of mascara from under her eyes. She pulled her sleeve over her nose and nodded. Jacob gave her the laptop.
“Mom?” Noelle asked.
“I’m here Noelle,” Sandy said. “I’m so sorry I was late. We decided to watch a movie in the new entertainment room. Jake forgot to tell us that our cellphones wouldn’t work down here. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“Mom?” Noelle started sobbing.
“Noelle?” Sandy asked. She realized that Noelle was more upset than Sandy missing her for fifteen minutes. “What is it, honey?”
“It’s Sissy,” Noelle said. “She’s shot!”
Sandy suddenly realized that the red in Noelle’s hair and on her face wasn’t paint. The girl was covered in blood. Sandy felt as if the ground below here suddenly disappeared and she was falling in. She glanced at Aden to make sure he was still holding Rachel.
“She died!” Noelle said. “On the sidewalk! She died! But MJ, he was able… and Ivan… Ivan said he was her husband and the ballerina got mad and…”
Noelle started sobbing so hard that Sandy couldn’t understand what she was saying. Sandy looked up from the laptop to see everyone’s horror stricken faces. Jacob was pulling out another laptop to check the news. Aden gave Rachel to Sandy and took the laptop.
“Noelle, honey,” Aden said. “It’s Dad.”
“Daddy?” Noelle asked. ” Oh Daddy, I tried, I really tried. But Sissy… and I… I’m not so big of a girl. I want to come home. Can I come home? And… MJ, he…”
A silk covered arm came around Noelle’s shoulder and she buried her face in the shoulder. MJ’s face came on the screen.
“We were attacked on the sidewalk when we were our way into the apartment after dinner,” MJ said. “It was perfectly timed to happen in the one minute between when we get out of the limo and when the door guards come out to get us. The door guards had just stepped out onto the sidewalk when we were hit. I managed to catch Noelle in time, but they got Sissy. She was hit in the rib cage — through and through.”
He pointed to his left rib cage.
“Ivan looks like a target as well,” MJ said. “The ballerina’s heel got stuck in the sidewalk. He bent forward to get it and missed the bullet. He was hit with spray back from the building when the shot hit it. But Sissy…”
MJ shook his head.
“I’m sorry,” MJ said. “Noelle wasn’t hit. That’s Sissy’s blood.”
“Why Sissy?” Sandy asked. “She’s not a part of this at all!”
MJ shook his head and shrugged.
“Where is she now?” Aden asked.
“They took her to New York-Cornell Pediatric ER,” MJ said. “We’re going to get cleaned up and head over.”
“Any idea on how Sissy is doing?” Aden asked.
MJ shook his head.
“Ivan went with them,” MJ said. “He told them he was her husband to be able to get on the ambulance. Pissed the ballerina off.”
“No loss there,” MJ scowled at the ballerina. “We put her back in the limo. It’s back now so we’ll go when Noelle is cleaned up.”
“Is Sissy alive?” Sandy asked in too low of a voice for MJ to hear.
“She’s in between,” Delphie said as if the question was asked of her.
“Is Sissy alive?” Aden asked MJ.
“Barely,” MJ said in a low tone. He leaned into the webcam. “Her lung collapsed and she’s lost a lot of blood. She coded here but they got her going again.”
MJ shook his head.
“She’s tough, that Sissy,” MJ said. “If I were to give it my guess? I’d say she’ll be dancing in six months.”
“So the bullet didn’t hit her spine?” Aden asked.
“Bullets,” MJ said. “I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. No major organs either. Lucky break.”
“She was carrying this heavy bag,” MJ said. “Her laundry from school, I think. It got stuck in the car and she was kind of twisted when he fired.”
MJ pointed to how the bullets when through Sissy. He nodded.
“I’m sorry,” MJ said. “I failed you, and Sissy. I know Ivan feels the same way.”
“They came after us here,” Aden said. “Delphie says that they came after Charlie too. It looks like they hit Heather.”
Aden nodded. MJ scowled.
“Bigger plan,” MJ said. “Just never occurred to me that there was a bigger plan. I’m sorry.”
There was a voice in the background and MJ looked up.
“Noelle’s in the shower,” he said. “Love to Honey and Maggie!”
The computer went dark.
“What do we do?” Sandy asked.
“We have to trust that our friends will pull through without us,” Delphie said.
Sandy broke down and started to cry.
Denver Cereal continues on Monday…
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